Sander & DaniëlleOur Toronto life...

Our Toronto life...

Going south…

It’s been a while since our last blog post, but here is the update from our trip to Florida.

After visiting Niagara Falls in the freezing cold and snow on Saturday, on Sunday we needed to wake up really early because my flight to Orlando was leaving at 06:20 am from Toronto so at 04:15 am the taxi was waiting for us downstairs and 45 minutes later we arrived at the airport. Of course my passport was not accepted at the Air Canada kiosk so we needed to wait in line to get my baggage tags. This was not moving at all so Sander got a little irritated and eventually we were allowed to go through the priority lane. But when you think it was over after this you’re wrong. We also needed to go through customs (yes the US Customs are already at Toronto airport) and after that there is the security check. It was stressful but 10 minutes before the boarding time we arrived at the gate to see that my flight had a 30-minute delay. Reason for the delay was that they had problems (??) getting the airplane out of the hangar.

After one hour we were finally ready to leave Toronto. Actually I did not mind the delay because Sander’s flight was leaving 2 hours later and I was going to wait for him at Orlando Int. Airport. The flight was OK for a 2,5 hour flight and my suitcase was almost the first one to arrive at the baggage belt. After that I looked for a place to eat while I was waiting for Sander’s flight to arrive. Unfortunately his flight was also delayed due to passengers who were stuck in customs/security at the airport. But after I had an early lunch and changed my Toronto-outfit for an Orlando-outfit I only needed to wait a little more and Sander was already standing next to me. Sander also changed his outfit at the airport and we went to look for the shuttle to bring us to Sixt rent-a-car just a little offsite of the airport. After a little wait we got our car, which was a Mini Cooper Countryman and we were on our way to our hotel.

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The first part of this trip we were staying at the Hilton Garden Inn Orlando at Seaworld. This hotel is near the Orange County Convention Center where Sander is going to work the next couple of days.

As soon as we arrived at the hotel and checked in we leave for Epcot. Epcot is our favourite Walt Disney World Park. After getting our tickets at the “will-call counter” we’re entering the park.

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First thing we do is going to the Character Sport to get our picture taken with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy. There was only a 5-minute wait and we got ourselves a special picture with Mickey.

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The rest of the day we do some attractions in Future World, also with Fast Pass+. I’m not sure if I really like this system, I just think I have to get used to it. Sander does TestTrack and Mission Space and together we do SpaceShip Earth and Soarin’. Then it’s time to leave Future World behind us and walk to World Showcase. I like this part of Epcot the most, it’s just great to walk around and see the different countries around the World Showcase Lagoon. We also got ourselves the MagicBand.

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At 09:00 pm we watched Illuminations: Reflections of Earth from the German pavilion and after this amazing show we leave the park and drive back to the hotel.

On Monday we both wake up early. Sander because he needs to go to the Convention Center and I am going to Disney’s Hollywood Studios today. I’ve got Fastpasses for Toy Story Mania, Stunt Show Spectacular and the Beauty and the Beast show. Unfortunately there is a lot of construction going on in this park and there is no parade. I wanted to get my picture taken with Baymax and Hiro, but the line was soon long, I think it was over one hour. So I just took a picture of Baymax and then decided to leave the park. tonight I wanted to see Fantasmic! and I needed to get my vest at the hotel. At 05:00 pm I was back in the park and after I bought myself something to eat and drink I entered the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater and got myself a great spot, right in the middle. I think this was my best spot ever for this show. And then the waiting started, more than 90 minutes but I had a nice woman sitting next to me and we talked about everything and before we knew it the show was about to start. I know I say it al the time and I will keep saying it, this show is amazing and gives me goosebumps every time I watch it, especially the part where Mickey Sorcerer appears at the top of the mountain at the end of the show!
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After this show I left the park and drove back to the hotel, where Sander and his colleagues were waiting at Bonefish Grill for dinner.

On Tuesday I went to Magic Kingdom. This park was really busy and there was a lot of construction going on but I had my Fastpasses. So I went for Peter Pan’s Flight and Winnie the Pooh. Afterwards I had a photo shoot with Elsa. Shortly after that it started to rain so I decided to get back to the hotel because I was going to rain almost all day long. I relaxed a bit at the hotel and in the evening Sander and I went back to Magic Kingdom to see Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes! Lucky us, it stopped raining and we enjoyed both shows.

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On Wednesday I was going to visit Animal Kingdom. As I entered the parking lot an already saw 5 cranes in the parks, also here a lot of construction going on. Here I had Fastpasses for Finding Nemo the Musical and Festival of the Lion King. I also went to see Flights of Wonders for the very first time. All really great shows, but that is just what Disney does best. You can watch them over and over again. I realised that if you’re pregnant in this park there is not a lot you can do (no Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Primeval Whirl). And also in this park there is now parade anymore, so after I did those shows I left the park and went for lunch outside of the Disney Parks.

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For lunch I had some strawberry banana pancakes at IHOP, just delicious! Lunch was followed by shopping at the Lake Buena Vista Factory Outlets and while I was there Sander already called me that they were done at the Convention Center so I drove back to the hotel and we spend the rest of the evening shopping at the Mall at Millenia and the Florida Mall.

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On Thursday Sander did have to work and we were going to change our hotel. We started this day at Magic Kingdom and he finally could ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, twice, because he also had my FastPass. We did some more attractions with almost no wait time and watched the Festival of Fantasy Parade. A nice parade with great music, but for my opinion a little bit to short. We saw the parade twice, first in Frontierland and at the beginning of Main Street USA before leaving the park. Before we went to the Hollywood Studios we went to our hotel to check in. The last 3 nights of our short vacation in Orlando we were staying at the Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista.

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We stayed here once in 2009 and the hotel is still great. After bringing our luggage to our room we went to the Studio’s for Fantasmic! and again we had a really good spot but had to wait for more than 90 minutes, but still worth it. As soon as Fantasmic! was done we got to our car as soon as possible and drove to Epcot to see Illuminations to end the day! Tired but satisfied we drove back to our hotel.

Friday was a rainy and cold day so we only went to the parks in the morning to use the Fast Passes we booked in the Hollywood Studio’s. Sander started with a FastPass for the Tower of Terror and together we went in Toy Story Mania, and guess who won….. I did for a change! Hahaha! Due to the bad weather we visited Downtown Disney and had a relaxing afternoon, Sander jumped in the hot-tube while I sat on our balcony. In the evening we went for diner with Ronella (colleague of Sander) and David in the Applebees in our hotel.

The Saturday we started with a really healthy and late Dunkin’ Donut breakfast before we went shopping. Due to the really bad weather we decided to visit as much indoor malls as we could find. In the evening the weather finally got better and we went to the Longstar Steakhouse for dinner. Rested as we were we packed our suitcases and left our hotel early at the last day of this trip to visit Animal Kingdom. We had a couple FastPasses for rides and the Nemo musical. As soon as we used them we left the park towards Epcot!

In Epcot the theming for the upcoming Flower and Garden festival was already visible. I’ve to say we really came in a spring mood today. After getting a lot of rides done and a picture with Duffy we ended the day with a trip to Spaceship Earth. And then it was time to leave for the airport.

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We dropped of the car and everything was fine. Within 10 minutes we arrived at the airport where Air Canada messed up once again. The lines where crazy at the Air Canada counters. We split up Sander went for the kiosks and I stood in the regular line since most of te time my passport isn’t recognized due to the “ë” in Daniëlle. And this was the case today, the line I stood in didn’t move at all and it was probably at least a 1,5 hour wait. But Sander got himself including me in the Priority Check-inn lane, don’t ask how but in only a couple of minutes we walked through customs. We joined Ronella and David and had a lot of fun while waiting for our boarding time. And the boarding again was a chaos. But Sander got us in the pre-boarding… We had fun seeing all the people board the plane with to large cabin luggage which didn’t fit in the overhead-bins. Just to funny…

The flight went by fast and we arrived even a bit early at the airport. Since we needed to go through the international customers at the airport we arrived at the baggage belts within 5 minutes after exiting the plane. We figured we need to wait for our suitcases, but not 1,5 hour…

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Except for the chaos caused by Air Canada and the other things which belong to flying this was a nice escape from the cold winter in Toronto.

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Frozen in Ontario…

One of the things we wanted to do since a couple of weeks was visiting the Niagara Falls in winter style. Last weekend wasn’t an option since we already had other things planned, next week we are hopefully enjoying some sunshine and if we come back temperatures might be above zero again, last time was the 29th of January. So in short today could be the last day to see them in Frozen style…

But before we left towards Niagara Falls we wanted to check in for our flights to Orlando, Florida for tomorrow. Yes flights since we are flying separate since I booked my flight through the office and Danielle booked hers through Air Canada direct and got an unbelievable low price from 365$ including all taxes (250 Euro). After all the booking was done we got ourselves a Starbucks coffee treat and a delicious chocolate chip cookie. Ok, the cookies are not as good as Danielle’s but they are the best chocolate chip cookies you can get at Starbucks, way better as the American version and just a bit better as the German ones.

When we left it started snowing a bit, nothing terrible since we got used to it the last months. During the drive it got worse, we had a delay because of a big accident on the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way) and after just over 2 hours we arrived.

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It was beautiful and cold. Danielle was happy to have seen it, for me it was the 2nd time during the winter season after I went in 2012 during a business trip together with Martin, a colleague. This time it was less cold but there was more snow and ice.

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The way back was terrible, we never drove over 80km/h since the roads were covered with snow and crashed cars. It took us over 2,5 hour to get back but we arrived back safe.

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After we got back I decided to wash our car in the cleaning zone in our parking garage. It’s free but it’s also do-it-yourself version. I guess it’s about 8 years ago I washed my car by hand. I think it’s better for your car to wash it by hand and I see it as one of the perks of living in the Minto Midtown towers but I felt a bit tired afterwards, maybe we should have bought a smaller SUV?

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Now it’s bedtime since the taxi will be waiting for us at 4:15am tomorrow.

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Canadian cold and snowshoeing…

After we opened the door from our Condo when we came back from our to short winter break in California we found a letter that the thermal unit (the whole door) would be replaced on that same day. After we watched up on some sleep the technicians came in the afternoon, within only minutes the whole unit was gone…outside it was about -14 degrees celsius and snowing and that made a 45 degree difference within 24 hours for us…

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You can imagine we felt really cold while waiting for the technicians to be finished in about an hour. After the unit was placed back we turned up the heating and soon it the temperature was back to normal again.

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On Thursday evening a colleague from Germany visited us, thanks for bringing the Whiskey! We decided early that day to go together to Jupiter Ascending, a movie, at the SilverCity across the street. The movie started but there was something wrong with the 3D image quality. After one of the other guests informed the staff is was resolved. The movie was good and when we left the theatre one of the employees handed out courtesy tickets for another movie because of the issue in the beginning. I love the service mentality here in Canada, you don’t even have to complain to get it…

And than it was time for a long weekend, we started early on Saturday with a visited to the Yorkdale Shopping centre. We went there to order a chair, we already looked at this chair for a long time but wanted to look for more options at other stores but nothing came close to this one…it’s in stock in the new jersey warehouse and we can pick it up in the local warehouse at the beginning of March and then our living room is finished!

Finished? Wasn’t there an Ottoman which still needed to be picked up? Yes there was and we did that today. The Ottoman is the perfect size, it’s much more convenient than the carton box we used the first months but…the it’s not the quality we would expect. One of the hinges is bend and the fabric is damaged. We send an e-mail with our remarks and within minutes after sending the mail we got a response back from John, our own furniture associate at the Crate & Barrel. A new one will be ordered for us to be built the same way and in the mean-time we can keep this one and use it as if it is ours. Again excellent service.

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That evening Danielle baked her famous Chocolate Chip cookies to bring the day after on a real Canadian adventure. Yes, I wanted to do something only die-hard Canadians would do… I planned to search for a geocache on a small island on Buckhorn Lake about 1:45 hours driving from our place. What’s so Canadian about geocaching you might think, the temperature. On this particular day the highest temperature was expected to be -20 degrees celsius with a windchill temperature somewhere close to -40 degrees celsius. And to get to the cache I needed to walk over the frozen snow-covered Buckhorn lake. Lucky for me the Geocache was placed by GEOmamma the mother of one of my coworkers and we were invited to visit their beautiful (and warm) cottage.

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The ride towards Ennismore was beautiful on its own and after a cup of tea and some cookies it was time to put on the snowshoes and walk over the lake. And I can tell you it was really cold, I never expected that you can actually feel the difference between -10, -20 or even -40 degrees but now I can tell you really cold starts at -30 or something. I felt things I’ve never felt before. After only minutes out there my face started to hurt, my coworkers laughed it away and told me to get used to it, it’s normal for real Canadians…oh boy I’ve got a long way to go before I can call myself a real Canadian I think…

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After posing for pictures in the middle of the lake and snowshoeing to Ground Zero it took me longer as usual to find the cache! It was made to blend in and normally I like the more creative geocaches but today I didn’t my hands started to hurt since my gloves aren’t suitable for Canadian winter weather…but I found it and I got some letters in the log, the pen gave up after being a couple of seconds out of my pockets.

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After warming up at a warm spot behind the island we started our walk back to the shore and the warm cottage. Although it was colder as I thought it was a really cool experience in every meaning of the word cool. I’m glad I did went out with this kind of weather to feel what a Canadian winter is about and in the end I was able to write my name down in the log of that geocache with difficulty level 4 and terrain level 5. After a warm lunch and a lot of small talk it was soon close to 4:pm and time to head home. Thanks for letting me experience this David and family!

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The monday was part of the long weekend as it was Family day, a statutory holiday which exists in Ontario since 2007, first time it took place was in 2008. We took it easy since we’ve quite busy week ahead of us but we decided to go see American Sniper in the VIP Movie Theatre at the Shops in Don Mills. It’s a great movie and with those full recliner seats and service in the theatre it got even better.

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Going up north again…

This morning we stayed in bed a bit longer since Danielle was used to the 3 hours time difference and I didn’t woke up from a railway. We wanted to look at some places we went already in 2012 but this time with a different goal or at a different spot. First up was the Hollywood sign, last time we only saw it from a mall at Hollywood Boulevard, this time we wanted to go as close as possible.

On the way to the spot we had no traffic at all and so I decided to take an exit early to drive over Hollywood Boulevard. But then I saw an empty parking spot which was free until 11:00am, that would give us about 1,5 hours to look at the attractions only 3 blocks away…

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After taking the usual pictures and grabbing a frappuccino (did I already wrote that it was about 25 degrees?) for the walk back to our car we continued our tour to 3000 Canyon Lake Drive. There was enough parking space and we got some nice touristy pictures.

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After taking the pictures it was time for lunch which we had at the Farmers’ Market and combined it with shopping for running socks at the Nike Store, a new cover for Danielle her iPhone and a SD-Card to Lightning converter for my iPad at the Apple Store.

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Within 2 hours we were done and left to the Beverly Center. This is the Beverly Hills fashion shopping mall but we weren’t there for shopping at the mall, we went towards a store 157 North Robertson Boulevard.

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Yes, it was the first time we went shopping for Tommy Hilfiger clothing from the European collection this year. But the selection was limited, most of the store were speciality items from the runway collections and since we both don’t have runway sizes… But we still found some nice new items for spring.

After we were done with shopping we went down to the Santa Monica Pier from some more beach time and another sunset. It was much more difficult to make good pictures here since it was really crowded at the beach. But we got some and that with a free parking spot only minutes walking from the pier made it a successful night.

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We went back to the hotel because on Monday we wanted to be at the Disneyland Park as early as possible since we had hopper tickets for both Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure. And we made it, we were among the first to enter the park and it wasn’t crowded at all. We start of with a Starbucks coffee in Mainstream after which we visited Star Tours, Buzz Lightyear, Jungle Cruise, Pirates, Haunted Mansion and made some pictures with characters before we headed to the other park.

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In California’s Adventure we enjoyed the Aladdin Musical, the Genie in the show is awesome. Afterwards we visited some rides and took character pictures before we headed back to the Disneyland Park to see the Soundsational Parade.

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The parade was fun to see, this is way better as the Christmas parade in Toronto and the weather is much better too.

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While waiting for the parade I found out that Siemens had a joint-venture with the Avengers in the Innoventions building and off course we needed to meet some of my colleagues and take pictures with them.

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Soon it was time to leave and after riding the Storybook Land Canal Boats and It’s a Small World (sponsored by Siemens) we had dinner at the Village Haus. And when we exited we both felt cold and a bit tired which made us decided to go back to the car and leave Disneyland behind.

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The day after would be our last day in California. We had an overnight flight back to Toronto which made us decided to have a really lazy morning in the hotel. In the afternoon we went to Rodeo Drive and we drove through Beverly Hills to look at the huge houses.

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Early in the evening we brought back our rental car. Since the rental facility is located of the airport in a hotel they advised us to come one hour early to make sure we make it to the airport on time. In the end that made us being back really early since we didn’t have traffic on the way to the airport, the shuttle arrived in 5 minutes, there was no waiting line in the terminal and our flight was almost an hour delayed…

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Both really tired we arrived back in a snow-covered Toronto and at 6:4oam we were waiting at the baggage claim and only 40 minutes later we opened the door of our condo….

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